By Tom Gambardella
Friday night at Impact Field in Rosemont showed fans many things, but perhaps the strangest among them was when fans booed a young boy on the left field video board. The cause for booing? The boy had listed ketchup as his favorite hot dog topping, committing a cardinal sin of Chicago cuisine.
The scene occurred midway through the second inning of the Chicago Dogs’ season opener against the Gary SouthShore RailCats. It was the fifth opening day in team history for Cook County’s only MLB Partner League team, and the Dogs celebrated this anniversary with a 4-0 win.
Kyle Murphy threw five innings of two-hit ball and earned the win. The game broke open just after Murphy’s final pitches, as the Dogs scored four runs on just two hits in the bottom of the fifth. The improbable rally was made possible by a dropped pop fly, two errors on the same play, three consecutive walks and a hit batsman. When the RailCats finally retired the side, the score was 4-0. It would stay there for the remainder of the evening, with Gary only mustering three hits in the game.
While the on-field action fluctuated between chaos and order, many fans were simply happy to be back at the ballpark. Looking around the stadium, Palatine native Kathy Murray took the opportunity to appreciate the atmosphere.
“It’s a really nice minor league stadium. I’ve been out to Phoenix for some spring training games, and this is on par with anything they have out there,” Murray said.
While Murray traveled to Rosemont to enjoy the game and take advantage of $2 cans of Hamm’s and $5 hot dogs, others made a family event out of it.
“I’ve got three boys, and my middle son is crazy about baseball,” Oak Park resident Bryan Webster said.
At the time, Webster’s sons were peeking over the wall of the left-field bullpen, hoping to be tossed a ball or two from a friendly reliever.
“They’re just trying to get as many baseballs as they can,” Webster added.
The Webster boys were able to watch relief pitchers warm up at point-blank range, but there was no shortage of sights to be seen Friday night regardless of where fans were sitting. Batboys scurried to the on-deck circle dressed as Batman; several fans walked the concourse in full-body hot dog costumes; and the Dogs’ mascot – a ketchup bottle, appropriately named Ketchup – twerked on top of the visitors’ dugout during the seventh-inning stretch.
Condiment-bottle posteriors notwithstanding, the atmosphere at Impact Field was decidedly family-oriented. Younger Dogs fans were encouraged to step on the field and run the bases after the game, a Friday-night tradition at Impact Field that some fans, like Downers Grove native Jeremy Stauder, seemed to appreciate.
Stauder was a bit too old to run the bases himself, but looking on from the bleachers he recognized what the experience, and Friday night’s game as a whole, meant to the young fans in attendance.
“Really it’s for the kids. I know there’s drinks for the adults, or whatever, but it’s really an experience for them (the children). Being able to play catch with players and get their autographs, it’s a great way to show them what baseball is like,” Stauder said.
And if the crowded basepaths at Impact Field were any indication, there were plenty of young prospective Dogs fans getting acquainted with the game Friday night.
Tom is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @macho_average.